Strangely though, what this shows me is that there is still hope for humanity. Because behind many speciesist, sexist, racist, homophobic and generally bigoted displays of ego and pride there are often individuals who have learned to “protect” themselves from the world by suppressing their capacity for empathy… And what has been learned can be unlearned.
I saw this very clearly when I became vegan. As I opened my eyes to the suffering of my fellow animals, I finally saw the role I played in their captivity, torture, and deaths. When I recognized this I had no choice but to change my actions in accordance with my conscious. From then on, it has been a continued process of looking at my life and seeing where I am turning a blind eye… where I am still closing myself to the plight others.
This is what empathy calls us to do and why we shut ourselves off from it. It calls us to recognize the suffering in the world and instead of hardening ourselves to it or collapsing under its weight, instead to let it spur us into action so that we may help alleviate that suffering.
To do this we must learn to open our hearts once again and then push beyond the weight of our own feelings about what is happening in the world, into a place of action and conscious choice, for this is where change and hope will begin.